Sunday, May 8, 2011

Yargo 6 Hour

I rode the Dirty Spokes 6 Hour at Fort Yargo this past Saturday. Though rewarding, all aspects of the experience were difficult. Just about everything worth doing is difficult though, so I'll put it in that category - worth doing - but I hope that the next one is easier, or at least that some aspects of it are.

Early Friday, I gave my buddy Vonnie a call. He and the SGC crew were coming up from Albany to camp that night and I was hoping to meet them. I turned out that it wasn't just the guys that were coming up, but wives and kids too. Vonnie wasn't racing either, he was just there for support. I could bring my kids, we could all camp out and the kids could play together during the race.

The plan was solid but the execution of the plan was much less solid. The girls had dance and gym until 7:30. When we were finally all back at home, it took like an hour to get our stuff together. It should have taken about 20 minutes, but we kept forgetting stuff.

 Camping Gear

Even after we left, we had to turn around because I'd forgotten to grab the bread and peanut butter, and even after that, I'd still forgotten our fishing rods. We had about an hour and a half to get to Yargo and we still needed to eat, so even after we realized it, there wasn't time to go back again. Oh well, no fishing for us.

We did manage to eat an excellent meal at Marchello's.


"Spaghetti alla Marchello" I think. Excellent sauce, and it didn't take too long either. We made it to Yargo right at 10. Last minute, but just in time.

Vonnie had been running late too and they'd just gotten there half an hour earlier and were still setting up their pop-up. The rest of the guys were out eating. I threw up our tent. Me, Iz and Vonnie hung out and talked. Sophie watched Tangled with Vonnie's daughter Cadence. At last. Relaxation.

The rest of the crew showed up a half hour later and Bill built a small fire.


Around midnight we sacked out. The temperature was in the low 40's; perfect for camping, and we slept soundly all night. It was the best sleep I've had camping in a long time. Things were looking up.

The next morning though, the difficulty resumed with vigor. This always happens at Yargo, and I always forget, and so it always happens again. The start is far enough away from the campground that you have to drive over, but if you don't drive over really early, you end up having to park way far out and make a bunch of trips back and forth to your car to set up your stuff. When I got to the start, there were already long trains of people ferrying tents and chairs and coolers and all manner of gear from their car to their pit site. I only had a chair, water bottles, a toolbox and my bike but it still took me 2 trips of like a half mile each. The kids were very helpful. It would have taken 3 or 4 trips without them. Still, nothing eats up time like that and I missed the pre-ride meeting and barely had time for a warm-up. It was fortunate I'd been able to jump out on the road while the kids were at gym and dance the day before. Difficulty managed.

I gave Iz my phone and lined up. She took a bunch of pictures, but only a few came out.

The girls had a herd of friends to play with.

 Herd of Kids

While I was riding, they went to several playgrounds, hiked on the nature trail and saw 3 water moccasins. By all accounts they had a great time. Thanks Vonnie.

I managed to get a decent position for the start. A few years back, I'd gotten a bad position and then gotten stuck behind traffic for two laps. Not this time!


The roll out on the road was relatively lazy and I managed to get into the woods in the top 30 or so. The first two laps were all man-it's-great-to-be-alive laps. The tread was fast and a little loose. One of the best things about going into the woods near the front is that everybody is fast and everybody has skills. Chasing the other riders through the twisties had that fighter-jet-in-a-dogfight feel to it and you could really feel the g-forces in the turns. It's hard to get that feeling on a casual ride with your buddies and it's one of the things I love about racing. I also felt substantially stronger climbing than I have yet this year. I don't think I got out of my big ring at all on the first lap.

As much fun as I was having, I could really feel the cumulative stress of work and lack of sleep; tight chest, having to force long breaths. I got good rest this past week, but that stuff adds up and it's hard to shake.

On lap 1, two riders got tangled up ahead of me going through a really tight spot and I ended up nose wheelie-ing down a little drop and almost went over forward. It was close, but I managed not to hit them or flip over. No fault of theirs, it was a very tight spot, but it was scary!

There was this one guy though, that I kept ending up behind for the first two laps, who was really strong, but had zero skills and apparently no knowledge of mountain bike racing etiquette. Either that or he didn't speak English. He was hands-down the most dangerous guy I've ever ridden behind. He'd go flying into something technical, slam on his brakes and force the riders behind him off the trail over and over and over. He must have done it 30 times. He wouldn't let anyone by and he'd pull over on you if you tried to pass him. At the end of the race, I was talking to Bill, I saw him and I was like: "Oh Bill, man, during the first lap, that guy..." and then Bill cut me off to describe how much trouble he had with him. Fortunately though, the guy was strong and eventually he got far enough ahead that I didn't have to worry about him any more.

Apparently Iz took a photo of me between laps.

 Between Laps

I have no memory of seeing her. Actually that might have been before the start. That would explain why I don't remember seeing her.

I do remember seeing Johnny though. He was volunteering. Norma was at the beach or something. I saw him at the end of each lap. He was working the start/finish line, calling out numbers and encouraging everybody as they came through.

The third lap was difficult. My left thigh almost wanted to cramp but it never did. Eventually it went away. Later on I got tired, but I never cramped. That's a new one.

Lap four was painful. I had that whole body-screaming-at-me-to-stop thing going. Every now and then I'd catch somebody and forget about it for a while, but then I'd get past them and forget about having forgotten about it. Or there'd be a climb steep enough to really take it out of me. There were three riders that I ended up sparring with for most of the race. I managed to shake one of them, but the other two rode away from me on lap 4.

I paced myself on lap 5, thinking there'd be a lap six. Lap 5 took 1:08 though and I only had 1:03 left. No way I could make up 5 minutes. I was glad to be done.


A funny thing happened during the race... A friend of mine had recently written about her awesome trip to Arizona and mentioned the Ocotillo cacti and the flowers they produce. At some point, the word "Ocotillo" sneaked into my brain and I could not get it out. It was like a song that you can't get out of your head, except that it was just one word. Imagine that. At some point it turned into "Ocotillo Wells." I'd seen a thing on TV about dudes jumping motorcycles there a while back. Now I had those two words stuck in my head. It wasn't until I was talking to people post-ride that it went away.

It took a while for the hurt to die down.

I took a shower in my clothes.

David Sagat was milling around behind our tent with his triumphant mustache. He was on a 9 hour team with Michael Bowen and Michele Zebrowitz. At that point, they were about an hour up on everybody else and he'd gotten the fastest lap time. Michael had mentioned that they were teaming up when I'd gone by the shop for some Clif Blocks on Friday. Sounded like it was working out pretty well for them. I'm pretty sure they ended up winning.

I'm also pretty sure Bill won his class. I ended up with 10th place (yay) out of 14 (oh, not so yay). Steve came in right after me. I didn't see how the rest of the guys did.

It took every ounce of energy I had to pack up the car. The kids fell asleep almost immediately on the drive back. I had to stop and get a Dr. Pepper and a Tangy Taffy to stay awake myself.

I felt bad about bailing and it sucked that I didn't get to hang out with everybody after the ride but I had to get back to Cumming ASAP for an art reception at a show that Kathryn had gotten a couple of pieces into. My mom even came over to watch the kids so we could go out to dinner with some friends and watch a movie afterward.

It was a good day, but it felt like a 9 stage event: camp, pit, race, pack, drive, art, dinner, movie... and finally, sleep. The sleep stage was my favorite. Best stage ever.

1 comment:

  1. Ocotillo! Too funny. :-) It was really good to see ya! I love your "triumphant" mustache description for David!